This was a quote from the 1999 movie, The Sixth Sense. In it a little boy confesses to his therapist that he sees and interacts with dead people. The journey that he and the therapist go on becomes a frightening and transformational trip through the spirit world that parallels the world of the living.
An interesting fantasy, but other than those who have claimed to see ghosts, or in stories or movies, or over-dramatized TV ghost hunter shows when, if ever, has this been a reality?
There is an archetypal specter that shadows us throughout our lives and that most of us try to ignore, but one that informs the way we live, behave, and move within our personal universes–DEATH.
Dead people in our dreams have visited many of us e.g. dead relatives and loved ones, dead celebrities, or even ourselves. Ghosts, spirits, and specters fly in and out of our dream spaces, threatening, or offering cryptic advice. Some of us have teetered on the brink of death while others have fallen in. We’ve been shot, stabbed, clubbed, eaten, and died by accident, or disease, or the bite of a snake sometimes over and over again across many nights. We have witnessed mass killings on a field of battle, or in our own homes. What is all this mayhem about?
In part it’s as simple as working through the concept of death itself–an attempt to develop a working relationship with it. These dreams help us to work through our deepest fears for ourselves and for the loss of others.
Sometimes dreaming of those who have died, or fears for our own death can be messages that we have become stuck in our grief, or our fears. At a conscious level we often convince ourselves that we have handled death, or we actively suppress our fears so as to function more efficiently. However, denial, or suppression only works, if it does at all, on a superficial and temporary basis. Healing has not happened because the wound remains hidden and not exposed to the air and a weeping scab is formed under which the wound festers. Learning to face these wounds and fears can be part of a healing process that allows us to move on in our lives.
Dead people in dreams, especially those we know, can be an attempt of the mind to deal with sad feelings, memories, guilt, loss, frustrated love, or anger connected with the person who has died, or to just complete our relationship with them from when they were living.
“To die, to sleep no more; and by a sleep, to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks that flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep, to sleep, perchance to dream; Ay, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.”–Shakespeare, Hamlet after the ghost of his father has come to him to tell the circumstances of his death.
When these dreams are faced and accepted (vs. denied, or rejected) this eventually allows the dreamer to resolve the loss and move on. There are also people whose images visit us when we are in times of stress and are looking for guidance or consolation. My Dad often shows up when an old feeling, or special memory associated with him is longed for, especially one that can lead to my own health and well being. Some people have shared with me that when facing an intractable problem and wishing the wisdom of a deceased parent were available, that that parent in their dreams will often visit them.
If you as the dreamer were to kill someone in the dream, it’s most often a symbol for the desire to “kill off” what they represent, e.g. a feeling, a relationship, their effect upon you or others, or even a circumstance or situation which their character may represent.
The death of feelings (such as when there is a loss of love for something or someone), or motivation, or the end of a plan, relationship, a belief, a chapter of ones life, or a transition about to happen e.g. mothers sometime see the death of a boy child in their dreams as the son transitions in waking life from one state of being to another– into preschool, or kindergarten, his first overnight, high school graduation, and off to college. In fact, whenever one is in transition from one state of being, or one event to another, dead people and death can show up in a dream. And when it does, ask yourself, “what is dying in my life–what is coming to an end, or what has the potential for ending soon?” This will give you clues as to the meaning of the dream.
Sometimes death can refer to a dead-end, a place where you are stuck in your life in a job, a relationship, or in your physical, or spiritual development. Even the experience of failure, or the fear of failure can conjure up an image of death in a dream (see falling into an abyss). But sometimes to see something die, or to actively kill something off is but an allegory for the act of “letting go,” or more colloquially, “getting off it.”
Ghosts can be memories that haunt us, past traumas, hurts, longings, or feelings (guilt, or hopes)–frequently these come from childhood experiences that have not been successfully dealt with and that are triggered by current events. Dreams of these spirits, or ghosts can act as an “exorcism” of unresolved issues. And these issues can be issues such as social injustice, war and famines and the sense of helplessness associated with these.
Death images don’t have to include dead people or ‘ghosties’ e.g. the image of a stopped clock, being sucked into a vortex, or whirlpool, gravestones, a cemetery, deep blackness, a bottomless abyss, a broken mirror, a dying plant, a dead animal, or falling into the void can all be images for endings, change and transformation.
Because death in a dream is more often than not a statement about how we are dealing with the issues of endings, they are also the counterpoint to issues of potential, rebirth, resurrection (such as reinventing ourselves), and new beginnings–truly soul-work.
“Tell me not, in mournful numbers, life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art; to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Death in a dream can also be a bookend to life, the other being birth, and thus points to its symbolic counterpart. In the book The Archipelago of Dreams, Robert, the protagonist, has to die to his body in order to enter the world of the spirit. In fact, Robert had to die, as in let go, of his limited self-images again and again in order to find the source of his true power and identity.
For additional insight to the symbol of death in dreams see this link to the Dreaming Wizard website which is an excerpt from the Dragon’s Treasure: http://thedreamingwizard.com/death-and-resurrection-in-dreams_295.html